Release Date: Jun 5, 2012
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
"Ethically, it's pretty fucked," coos Friends singer Samantha Urbani on "Sorry," weighing her guilt over a sketchy love affair before shrugging, "I want you to come over to my house." Sure, we're in! The sexy Bushwick, Brooklyn, outfit sounds less conflicted elsewhere on a debut that often recalls New York's Eighties downtown glory days, when punk, funk and disco commingled on labels like 99 and ZE. Percussion-packed rhythms rule on Manifest!, and Urbani's raplike verses sometimes favor flow over literal meaning – see the call-and-response holler "Van Fan Gor Du," which nearly means "What the hell are you doing?" in Swedish. The band's sweet B-side reading of Ghost Town DJs' 1996 hit "My Boo" is sadly absent from the album.
Nowadays the word ‘hipster’ elicits more bile than Linda Blair’s projectile vomiting. Divorced from its origins in the jazz world of the Forties, the word has been repurposed and redefined to become synonymous with the twenty/thirty somethings littering the pavements of Dalston on a weeknight, rolley in one hand and can of Red Stripe in the other, talking about their latest art exhibition in some Hackney hole. Entire blogs have sprung up devoted to hipster hate and even the broadsheets have got in on the action with column inches analysing the cultural phenomenon.
The heyday of new rave in all its MDMA-zing glory may seem about as relevant now as The Enemy plodding out another meat-and-two-veg record (oh, wait…), but you’ve got to admit it was fun. And with the likes of Adele and the rest of what’s been dubbed The New Boring taking pride of place at the top of the charts, what the world’s in severe need of is a band to inject a slice of giddiness into proceedings like Klaxons once did. Enter Friends’ ‘Manifest!’ – the soundtrack to every pissed-up summer party you’ll have this year.The Brooklyn quintet’s debut is louche, cool, and wickedly and exuberantly playful.
Friends' debut album Manifest! is a loose-limbed, dancefloor-filling jam with songs that are tropically inspired, sweet-spirited, and fun. The record positions them as a Brooklyn version of the Tom Tom Club, easygoing and driven by hooky basslines. They are also influenced by slow-groove R&B, the anything-goes spirit of the B-52's, a bit of synth-y new wave, and a touch of modern Brooklyn reverb pop.
The trajectory of Manifest!, the hotly anticipated debut LP from Brooklyn’s Friends, is like that of a dramatically over-theatrical friend over the course of the party. The line between playacting and genuineness is often toed (watching Friends perform live, or rather, watching Samantha Urbani strut around and hug audience-members, is both gratifying and annoyingly twee; the band’s music videos are poster-children for Gen Y Instagram Syndrome), the music itself is immanently danceable and sometimes goofy, and flashes of brilliance are often around the corner. It’s honest-to-goodness excellent pop music, coated in a new-new-wave/funk eclecticism that seems to have been bubbling in Brooklyn for a minute now, and, regardless of or despite Friends’ affectations, you’ll end up just glad to have heard it.
Two effervescent singles last year – Friend Crush and I'm His Girl started the chatter about the Brooklyn five-piece Friends. With strikingly "cool" videos and sleeve art, married to a pick'n'mix approach to New York's musical history – some girl group here, some early hip-hop there, some punk-funk round the corner – they seemed like nothing so much as a tumblr account given musical form. The highlights of their first album, sadly, are still those two singles, and there are some missteps here.
With the ring-a-ding-ding of a triangle and a funktastic bass line, Brooklyn band Friends introduced itself. “When you see me walking around with him, I’m not just another chick/I’m his girl,” Samantha Urbani brags on “I’m His Girl”, the single that catapulted the bedroom R&B act to mass listenership last year. “Mind Control”, Friends’ even funkier follow-up single, received similar blog-fueled buzz and was recently selected as “The Hottest Record in the World” by UK radio program BBC Radio One’s Zane Lowe.
The turnover rate for pop re-appropriation is accelerating. We're barely at the backend of the last 1980s revival, kickstarted around the time the Rapture arrived in New York City and channeled the dormant influence of some of the city's musical forebears (Liquid Liquid, ESG, Tom Tom Club) on their now-seminal "House of Jealous Lovers" single. Over 20 years passed between Liquid Liquid's debut EP for 99 Records and the release of that Rapture single on DFA in 2002.
Anyone who has listened to a few hours of college radio in the past six months has at some point heard the sound of Friends. Since the release of their immaculately funky single I’m His Girl, the anticipation surrounding their debut has only been growing. It’s not surprising: from the single, Friends seem to have a rare chemistry that radiates a natural cool and a laidback swagger.
Friends' debut record has a stereoscopic cover straight out of the 1890s and a sound firmly rooted in the 1980s. Lead singer Samantha Urbani and multi-instrumentalist Lesley Hann front the Brooklyn five-piece, whose catty pop funk single "I'm His Girl" and the Missing Persons-esque "Friend Crush" made splashes in the blogosphere in late 2011. The former is their full-length's best track, with its infectious rapped/spoken verses and relentless chime-tapping, but Manifest! manages to brew up a couple new winners.
New Yorkers’ magpie approach produces a surprisingly singular sound on this debut set. Nick Levine 2012 How trendy is this mixed-gender outfit from Brooklyn? So trendy that they get away with calling themselves Friends, a band name that would sound naff even if it didn't evoke memories of attractive people with 1990s haircuts slurping lattes from oversized mugs. They're the sort of insouciant posse who apparently "have a reputation for turning live gigs into spontaneous DIY parties (and vice versa)".